February 19, 2002

 

 

          Hank  has asked us to tell him what number of students he  should  assume will attend a voluntary school so that he, Betty, and the rest of his staff can tell us what the academic and co-curricular offerings would look like. 

 

          That  number for me is the number which would maintain the  strength  and diversity of the current academic program. 

 

          This board has talked about how having two schools would - theoretically at  least  -  provide more co-curricular opportunities for students.  What we  have  not talked  about  is the loss of academic opportunities that a voluntary  school  would cause.    That  is  because  counting  co-curricular  opportunities  can  be   simple.  Football  teams  have  a  fixed size.  Doubling the number  of  football  players  by having two teams is easy math. 

 

          We   will   not   have  a  definitive  description  of  the   loss   of   academic opportunities  at a voluntary school until this board gives Hank the numbers  he  is required  to  assume  for  his projections and his staff  has  time  to  crunch  those numbers.   But  I have done a quick and dirty calculation  equivalent  to  assuming that  having  two  football  teams creates a whole football  team's  worth  of  new opportunities.   I  did  this  by seeing what courses  would  be  cut  because  there would not be enough enrollment by current standards.  It is not a pretty picture.

 

          I started by taking the draft 2000-2001 Master Schedule Listing which Hank  gave  us  last  year.  I then assumed that a voluntary school would  have  1/4  the number  of  students, or 907 based on last year's enrollment.  That works  out  to  227 students in each of the freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior classes. 

 

          I  then looked to see which courses had three or fewer sections.  I  assumed  that  if a course had four or more sections then at least one section in that  course could be offered at a voluntary school.  Conversely, I assumed that if a course had  three  of fewer sections that it would not be offered at a voluntary  school,  unless  of  course  we  decide  to  spend  more  per  student  on  voluntary  students  than  Winnetka students.

 

          According to the methodology I just described, here are some of the courses  which would NOT be offered at a voluntary school:

 

 

discussion and debate

acting workshop

English 1 team, three level

English 3 team, nine level

English 4 team

Algebra 2 team

Film study

journalism

creative writing

great books

senior writers seminar

multi variable calculus

AP statistics

AP computer science

Latin 4

Latin 5

all Chinese

French 1 and French 5

German 1, 3, 4, and 5

All Hebrew

All Japanese

AP Spanish 5

Human anatomy

zoology

AP chemistry

AP physics B

AP Physics C

American Culture

Philosophy

Economics

AP Economics

AP European history

political science

AP political science

and

International Relations

 

          In  addition,  some  large visual and performing arts  courses  would  require  smaller  sections and additional faculty to service two schools.  I do not  have  the   knowledge or capacity to hazard a guess as to what the additional cost would be.

 

          I  told  you  this  was quick and dirty.  The  departments,  Betty,  and  Hank      would   undoubtedly   do   all  they  could  to  minimize   the   loss   of   academic opportunities.   I  assume  the final picture they paint for us will not  be  so  bleak,   although I suspect it will be more expensive because they will decrease some class sizes to avoid cutting some courses.  But if their report is half as bad as the  rough  numbers  predict,  then  the cost of a voluntary school in terms  of  lost  academic opportunities is high. 

 

          If  a goal of opening a voluntary school is to clone the current  program  but  make  it small, then it can not be done without either having unequal  funding  per pupil in order to pay for the same program with smaller class sizes at the voluntary  school,  or  equal  funding  per pupil but with a  lesser  program  at  the  voluntary  school.   Fewer  students mean fewer academic choices or higher  costs  or  both.   That is the nature of economies of scale.

 

          I  believe all of us intend the natural consequences of our actions,  including  school  board  members.   I  am  not clear what  each  of  the  proponents  of  the voluntary  school  wants  to see: a different program at  the  voluntary  school,  or   more money spent on voluntary school students. 

 

          If  we vote to close the freshman campus and to open a voluntary school,  I do  not  think it will be fair to spend more per pupil on  voluntary  school  students   than  on Winnetka school students.  Neither do I think it would be a good  idea  to diminish the academic choices available to voluntary school students.

 

          So  for  me  the number that Hank should use is  the  number  which  would   maintain the strength and diversity of the current academic program at a voluntary school,  but  only  if that can be done without spending more per  student  on  the voluntary  school.   Maybe  Hank can figure out a way to do that.   The  raw  data  suggest otherwise.